With the SEC entering the final stretch of games in conference play, each game becomes more and more important to every team.
The game between LSU and Alabama on Tuesday is no different, as both teams are fighting for positioning in the SEC Tournament, as well as building their NCAA Tournament résumés for the future.
These two teams have already met this season, with Alabama pulling out a 77-64 win a month ago in Baton Rouge.
LSU has been better of late, winning two of its last three games, but still possesses a 5-7 conference record overall. The Tigers won their last game against Ole Miss, but LSU’s general inconsistency is concerning as the SEC schedule wraps up.
The Tigers have plenty of opportunities to solidify their profile with games against potential NCAA Tournament teams in Missouri and Mississippi State, but they need to start that positive momentum with a win over the Crimson Tide in Tuscaloosa.
Alabama has been very up and down as of late, going 3-3 while alternating wins and losses during that stretch.
However, the Tide is coming off one of the best games in a long time in beating Tennessee by 28, which was recently discussed by LSU head coach Will Wade, saying that game was “as good of film as I’ve seen on anyone this season.”
The Tide haven’t won a midweek game since their win over Auburn on January 17, but if they can win this game, they will have a bit of positive momentum into Rupp Arena this weekend, where the Tide haven’t won since 2006.
Let’s take a look at the players to watch, the keys to victory, and a score prediction for Tuesday’s contest at Coleman Coliseum.
Players to Watch
Duop Reath (LSU)
LSU’s big man has been dominant over the last few games, averaging 18.6 points and 5.9 rebounds over the last seven games.
Reath is a big bodied post scorer with range out to the 3-point line, where he shoots 37.5 percent, and players with that sort of scoring ability have given Alabama some problems in the past (Grant Williams, Keith Stone, Jontay Porter, and Khadeem Latin, to name a few).
So, finding a significant role for Reath in the offense will be very important for the Tigers to travel to Tuscaloosa and pull out a win.
John Petty (Alabama)
Petty is Alabama’s best perimeter shooter, and when he goes, the Tide goes as well.
In wins this season, Petty is shooting 44.4 percent from the behind the arc, but in losses, that number drops to 21.4 percent. Similarly, he shoots 43.6 at home, while shooting only 22 percent on the road.
The track record for Petty is good at home, so look for him to have a good shooting game, but there is a possibility that Petty could struggle, which will open the door for LSU to be able to have success in this game.
How LSU Can Win
The Tigers will need Tremont Waters to finally look like his old self on the court to win this game.
The freshman has been somewhat inconsistent as of late, only scoring more than 10 points three times in the last 10 games and having multiple six-plus turnover games in the last five games for LSU.
Waters has struggled to find a consistent rhythm since his game-winner against Texas A&M, so if the Tigers want to turn it around against the Tide, he will need to have a solid outing.
How Alabama Can Win
The Tide will need the continued high-level play of Donta Hall to be able to handle the Tigers.
Hall has been excellent as of late for Alabama, posting two double-doubles in the last three games and having an eight-block performance against Oklahoma.
Hall’s offensive game is generally lobs and put-back dunks off offensive rebounds, which is one of the things that has plagued LSU in conference play. The Tigers rank 13thin the conference in offensive rebounds allowed, as well as ranking dead last in total rebounding in the SEC.
That could open things up for Hall, as well as Daniel Giddens and Dazon Ingram, to have good rebounding games in this one.
Alabama is the better team on paper in this matchup, and playing at home, the Tide have the capability to win this game quite comfortably against an LSU team that’s hanging onto the bubble by a thread.
The Tide generally struggle in midweek games, at least as of late, so that gives me a bit of pause when it comes to picking them to blow out the Tigers. However, it wouldn’t surprise me if the Tide build a big halftime lead and cruises to an easy victory heading into this weekend’s matchup against Kentucky in Lexington.
LSU has a puncher’s chance if it can hit an incredible amount of difficult shots, but look for the Tide to come out focused on defense first as they look to turn the corner as a team over the next few games.
Prediction: Alabama 75, LSU 61